“Mr. Good Bar” by LL Cool J
You heard less and less from superproducer Marley Marl as the Golden Age beats were drowned out by the ascendant whoomp of Dre’s G-funk; in the east, the soon-to-be-ubiquitous gangsta gloss of the Bad Boy coterie, with everybody in the underground trying to knock off RZA’s chill and grime.
In the late ’80s, Marley Marl produced the immortal twin classics Long Live the Kane and Goin’ Off for Cold Chillin’ labelmates Big Daddy Kane and Biz Markie, respectively. His beats were pure hip hop magic: driving and irresistible, with spare, propulsive sampling that defied the simplicity of his loops. And he wasn’t above throwing in abrasive crap that was just plain wrong, mirroring a technique taken to the limit by the Bomb Squad, Public Enemy’s genius production troika.
Marl produced LL Cool J’s fourth album, Mama Said Knock You Out, of which “Mr. Good Bar” is the uncontested gem (his remix of Walking with a Panther’s “Jingling Baby” is also straight-up delirious). He couples an insanely simple breakbeat with a rude, two-note, guitar chop and some contrapuntal straggler notes; backs it with a vaguely siren-like chop up of what sounds like yet another guitar to give it this somewhat eerie, cavernous feel; and sets the stage for Uncle L at his smirking, cuckolding best: “You got a man? That’s something we will talk about/He’s smart enough to have ya, but dumb enough to letcha out.”
A few weeks ago, in the throes of a cruel and bottomless spring heartache, I listened to “Mr. Good Bar” 17 times in a row on the way back from Boulder. It was that stage of separation in which, for fleeting moments, the pain can briefly channel itself into ludicrous yet enormously satisfying scenarios, many of them involving cars more expensive than mine by geometric degrees, some involving women more expensive than mine fellating me in said cars while driving past cause of aforementioned heartache. I’ll leave the wardrobe details up to your silly imagination. L’s couplets were a glimpse to into a rogue’s spring that I desperately needed to believe in: a tableau of brightly-lit places, sweet night air, and throwaway affection of which I would surely be in command. The sweet young things come and go, but the good old beats keep giving. And spring isn’t over.
Col. Hector Bravado
From Denver, Colorado